Spain’s top court upholds jail for Socialists charged with fraud in Andalusia

Spain's Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld convictions for 16 former top officials from the ruling Socialists in Andalusia over one of the biggest graft cases in the country's modern history.

Spain's top court upholds jail for Socialists charged with fraud in Andalusia
Former Socialist presidents of the Junta de Andalucia Manuel Chaves and Jose Antonio Grinan appear before a judge at the Seville courthouse. Photo: Julio MuÒoz / POOL / AFP

The ruling comes as Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialists slump in opinion polls ahead of general elections expected in late 2023.

A Seville court in 2019 convicted 19 former top Socialist officials in Andalusia for diverting 680 million in public funds meant to help the unemployed and companies in difficulties in the southern region.

Among those convicted were two former heads of the regional government of Andalusia, Manuel Chaves and José Antonio Griñán.

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the convictions of 16 of the 19 former officials, including those of Griñán and Chaves, and acquitted three others.

It maintained Griñán’s conviction for embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds and his jail sentence of six years, as well as his ineligibility to hold public office for 15 years.

The court also confirmed Chaves’s conviction of maladministration and his ineligibility to hold public office for nine years.

Andalusia, Spain’s most populous region, had been for decades a stronghold of the Socialists.

But the Socialists lost control of the regional government in January 2019 after 36 years in office to a coalition led by the conservative Popular Party (PP).

The PP argues the case shows the Socialists resorted to cronyism, using taxpayers’ money to reward supporters with jobs and benefits in a bid to maintain their grip on the region.

Sánchez came to power in June 2018 thanks to a no-confidence vote sparked by another major corruption scandal involving members of the PP.

Polls show the Socialists are trailing the PP, which in April appointed a moderate new leader, Alberto Núñez Feijóo.

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Spain police bust ‘Ukraine aid’ drug smuggling ring

Spanish police said Monday they had broken up a smuggling ring that was transporting cannabis across Europe under the guise of a convoy of humanitarian aid destined for Ukraine.

Spain police bust 'Ukraine aid' drug smuggling ring

During the operation, police arrested 30 suspects – among them Spaniards, Ukrainians, Germans and Moroccans – at several locations across the southern Andalusia region, a Guardia Civil statement said.

The marijuana, which came from plantations located across the region, was “packaged in cardboard boxes disguised as supplies and humanitarian aid destined for Ukraine,” it said.

They were then packed into vans registered in Ukraine that were “purportedly acting as a solidarity convoy so they could pass under the radar of police and border controls,” while visiting various European countries, it said.

Police were alerted to the scheme after identifying a group of Ukrainians on the Costa del Sol who were collecting large quantities of marijuana that were stored in a flat in Mijas, near Málaga.

During the raids, which targeted sites in Málaga province as well as in the southern cities of Granada, Córdoba and Seville, police seized nearly €800,000, six guns and 2,500 cannabis plants.

The suspects were charged with various offences, including drug trafficking, membership of a criminal organisation and the illegal possession of weapons.